RVA Ballet’s New Works Festival Spotlights Contemporary Styles, Peanut Fish & Octopus
“Let’s take it from the peanut fish into the octopus.” These are words I never imagined I’d hear Richmond Ballet dancer Maggie Small say. Without missing a beat her partner, Philip Skaggs, lifts her and limbs fly in all directions.
Aha! Octopus. I can see it!
Small and Skaggs are rehearsing their pas de deux section in Peter Quanz’s newest contemporary ballet. The piece, featuring three couples, will premiere March 25-30 as part of the Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival.
Quanz, a Canadian-native and graduate of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, is one of four choreographers awarded the opportunity to create a new work with the support and resources of the Richmond Ballet. Each choreographer is given 25 hours to produce a 10-15 minute piece; barely a week of rehearsal time. When asking Quanz if the time constraint forced him to have a set structure in mind before arriving to Richmond he replied that there was “No plan. No map. We went into the studio together and just started working.”
And work they did! By the end of Tuesday the piece was a third of the way complete, including the finale. On Thursday alone he created six solos. Quanz explained that working in this way allows him to “stop over editing and gives him time to play.” His exploratory approach to choreography in this setting reminds him to “trust that the movement is still going to come.”
As the steps begin to flow, it’s the professionalism and drive of the dancers from the Richmond Ballet that make this experience refreshing. “This is a company with high standards. They are consistently asked to push themselves and grow,” said Quanz. From classical works like Serenade and Cinderella, to the more contemporary pieces commissioned for the New Works Festival, the dancers at Richmond Ballet are constantly changing dance styles throughout the season.
Dancer Philip Skaggs states, “You cannot walk into the Richmond Ballet and say I am only a ballet dancer. We do it all.” Maggie Small, another RVA Ballet Dancer, energetically explained that these opportunities are what “feeds your soul” as a dancer.
Both Small and Skaggs found the working process with Quanz invigorating. “Even though the timeframe with Peter is limited, nothing is sacrificed. Every detail is defined,” says Small. Skaggs states the “days go by so fast because we are energized by what Peter is creating.” The duo even came up with nicknames for certain movements because they are unique, non- traditional ballet steps.
Peanut fish, anyone?
For Quanz, the main goal as a choreographer is “to be a communicator. You connect people and bring them together on a concept.”
To see Quanz’s final product (peanut fish and octopus included!) check out the Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival at the Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre March 25-30.
Rebecca A. Ferrell, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a dance educator, choreographer and performer. She is currently the artistic director of FDANCE, a project dedicated to her work as an intervention dance artist. Rebecca holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University as well as a MFA in Dance from Arizona State University. She is currently adjunct faculty at VCU Dance and is in charge of dance curriculum at John Tyler Community College. When she is not dancing, Rebecca is making cupcakes, breaking hearts, and obsessing over the color pink.
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